China Eastern flight from Shanghai to New York forced to land in Alaska after passenger is taken ill on board

Passenger jet was forced to dump fuel in mid-air so it could land safely in Anchorage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 5:33pm

A plane from Shanghai bound for New York was forced to dump 30 tonnes of fuel in mid-air and land in Alaska after a passenger was taken ill on board.

The China Eastern Airlines plane MU587 that took off on Friday evening was around eight hours into its scheduled 15-hour flight, when its crew made an emergency landing at Anchorage airport.

The emergency landing was made after a 60-year-old woman started suffering breathing difficulties and cramps before passing out.

The crew immediately arranged to move the woman from economy class to business class.

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But “the situation had not improved after help from a doctor on board”, according to a statement by the airline issued via Facebook.

The crew decided to dump 30 tonnes of fuel before landing in Alaska, while the sick passenger, who was accompanied by her daughter and her grandchild, was transported to hospital immediately.

Two hours after the landing, the flight, which was carrying 294 passengers, resumed its journey to New York.

It is unknown what exactly the woman was suffering from but reported that the woman’s daughter had said that her mother’s physical condition was “weak”.

However, some social media users criticised the airline for dumping fuel in mid air.

One commentator on WeChat reacted to a statement by the company by saying “fuel-dumping pollutes the environment”.

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The airline responded to the comment by saying that: “Fuel dumped mid-air is ejected in the form of gas and therefore destruction to the environment is comparatively minimal. Saving someone’s life is the priority.”

According to the company, planes are designed to be significantly lighter when landing than when taking off and the fuel-dumping was conducted according to international flight safety standards.

The flight involved was reported to be weighing 282 tonnes at the time it needed to make an emergency landing, exceeding the maximum weight designed for landing which was 251 tonnes.